Features:

 

‘Royal Family’ opens at Shakespeare Theatre’s season
By BILL NUTT
| The Daily Record
   To theatergoers in the late 1920s, the members of the Barrymore family of actors - particularly Ethel, Lionel, and John - really did constitute theatrical royalty.

   In 2015, the only Barrymore that most audiences know directly is Drew.

   So the 1927 play “The Royal Family,” which is loosely based on the Barrymores, would seem to have little to say to contemporary theatergoers. Right?

   Wrong, according to members of the cast of the production of “The Royal Family,” which opens the 2015 season at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Click here to read more.


Family Matters: Bonnie Monte is celebrating 25 years with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey with a season devoted to "Kith and Kin"
By Anthony Stoeckert
| The Princeton Packet
   As Bonnie Monte was putting together the schedule of plays for her 25th season as the artistic director for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, she noticed a theme developing.

   ”I think it’s a season that really has something for everyone, which obviously we always try to do, but our season slogan kind of gives it away, it’s ‘Kith and Kin,’” Ms. Monte says. “It’s a lot of plays about very different kinds of families.”

   Furthermore, three of the plays are about theater, delving into actors finding the balance between their work and personal lives, and how they’re sometimes successful, and sometimes not..Click here to read more.

Madison dog takes to Shakespeare stage
by William Westhoven | The Daily Record

   Actors trodding the boards with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey often come to Madison with dazzling professional resumes. But none can top the pedigree of the award-winning company’s newest star.

   Meet Jake, a 10-year-old English Shepherd whose paws are earning applause in his stage debut as “The Dog from Abroad” in the classic theater’s season-opening production of the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber comedy “The Royal Family.”

   Jake has an enviable commute to his new gig. A resident of Madison, he lives about 200 yards from the theater with the Spellman family and his rambunctious little brother, Nick. Click here to read more.


Reviews:

 

'The Royal Family' a lively fun production at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
By Rick Busciglio | New Jersey Footlights
   The Tony Award-winning classic farce The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, has impressively opened The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s 53rd Season. The Royal Family is a wonderful rollicking parody of the great theatrical dynasty, the Barrymores circa 1927 (Remember John, of the Great Profile and his international fame for his romantic films, Ethel, an early Queen of Broadway, and older brother Lionel a long time MGM fixture?)

   This lively production is another example of the reason the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is considered by many the crown jewel of our professional theatres. The Royal Family is a delightfully lavish (great set and costumes) and fun production directed by the theatre's artistic director, Bonnie J. Monte. Ms. Monte's track record over 20 years would earn her an MVP award in baseball (Most Valuable Player), in the theatre, it would be MVAD/ MVD. With The Royal Family she has beautifully staged this play that (dare we say) in other hands might be tarred as dated and old-fashioned. Making it work so well is the impeccable cast she assembled of mostly veterans, of both Broadway and STNJ.

   But first, all you may need to know about the plot: In Kaufman and Ferber's thinly disguised tale, we have the Cavendish family, an acting dynasty stretching back to the 1700's, faced with the unthinkable situation....that one of them wishes to marry someone outside of show business and possibly give up the stage! Will she or won't she, that is the question. Click here to read more.

The Royal Treatment for “The Royal Family” in Madison
By Philip Dorian | Two River Times

   Plays about Theatre and Theatre People start out with a big advantage. They are written, directed and acted by people who usually know what the heck they’re talking about. No play fits this better than “The Royal Family,” and no production of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s 1927 slice-of-theatrical-life comedy could be any better than the one at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

   Despite the authors’ denial, it’s long been accepted that the play’s Cavendish family was loosely based on the Barrymore clan, with Julie Cavendish standing in for Ethel Barrymore, and Julie’s flamboyant brother Tony bringing to mind Ethel’s flamboyant brother John. Unfamiliarity with that history is no barrier to enjoyment of the play, but knowing that characters as fascinating as these were real people adds to the fun.

   The focus is on three generations of Cavendish women. Seventy-year old Fanny (Elizabeth Shepherd), widow of the premiere actor of his day, is planning to tour in a play, despite serious health issues. Her daughter Julie (Roxanna Hope) is a current Broadway star, and Julie’s 18-year-old daughter Gwen (Samantha Bruce) is a star-in-waiting. The three personify glamor – characters and actors alike. Click here to read more.

'Royal Family' reigns supreme at Shakespeare Theatre
By C.W. Walker | Asbury Park Press

   Oh, those wacky theater folks! You know the types: the diva, the grand dame, the ingénue, the caddish romantic lead, the resentful has-been, the jealous bit player.

   They strut, they pose, they declaim, drawn to the spotlight like moths to a flame. And they're all on display in "The Royal Family," George S. Kaufman's and Edna Ferber's ode to drama queens of both genders. The play opens the 2015 season at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison.

   The family of the title is named "Cavendish," but audiences back in 1927 knew that this was a thinly disguised satire of the Barrymores, the reigning acting dynasty of the period. The Barrymores knew it, too. Ethel Barrymore even contemplated a lawsuit. Her dashing, egotistical brother, John, was simply amused. Click here to read more.

A Royal "Royal Family" Sizzles @ STNJ
By Ruth Ross | NJ Arts Maven

   While lately we've heard talk of political dynasties (the Bushes and Clintons), America was once known for its theatrical dynasties. In the 19th century, there were the Booths (Junius Brutus Booth and his two sons Edwin and Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes), and the 20th century stage was graced by the husband-wife duo of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, to name two.

   But perhaps the most colorful and notorious of all were the Barrymores—siblings Ethel, Lionel and John—whose scandalous scrapes and devotion (some would call it an obsession) to the stage served as the inspiration for Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's wildly wicked comedy The Royal Family, now inaugurating The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's 53rd season and Bonnie J. Monte's silver anniversary as the company's Artistic Director.

   As parodied by Ferber and Kaufman, what a crew the Cavendish clan are! Ever squabbling, engaging in rapid-fire repartee, they reveal themselves to be Olympic-class narcissists of the first order. Matriarch Fanny Cavendish rules this theatrical family, which includes her brother, the less successful actor Herbert Dean and his wife Kitty; Broadway diva daughter Julie and her up-and-coming ingénue daughter Gwen; and son Tony, a talented actor gone "Hollywood" and whose scandalous scrapes cause a whole lot of trouble for everyone in the family. For a group that eats, drinks and sleeps performance, the arrival of two nonactors offering marriage proposals to Gwen and Julie provides the crux of the conflict upon which drama depends: Should the two women wed these outsiders for the promise of money, security and a settled life, or is the pull of the stage too great to give up? Click here to read more.

'The Royal Family' opens at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
by Ronni Reich | The Star-Ledger

   The chandelier that hangs over the spiral staircase is as telling a set piece as any.

   The Cavendishes, to whose living room those winding steps lead, never miss an opportunity for a grand entrance, a bold exit or an applause line – even if the occasion is breakfast with a few confidantes.

   The playwrights George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber dubbed these characters "The Royal Family," a tongue-in-cheek ode to the real-life Barrymore acting family and the drama (on stage and off) that follows it.

   At the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, artistic director Bonnie J. Monte helms a season-opening production that brings out the 1927 play's shifts in tone from a comic send-up to a compelling meditation on how the torch is passed from one generation to the next, and how love and art may or may not be compatible. Click here to read more.

THE ROYAL FAMILY at STNJ is a Real Hit
by Marina Kennedy | Broadway World

   "The thrill you get out of a day of your work is the most important thing in the world." -The Royal Family

   The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) opens their season with The Royal Family by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Directed by the company's Artistic Director, Bonnie Monte, this show promises to be a big hit with metropolitan area audiences. The play is onstage through June 21st so make time to enjoy this vibrant production with family and friends.

   The plot of The Royal Family was inspired by the famous theatrical family, the Barrymores. Set in the year 1927, the play depicts three generations of the Cavendish family, a talented but quirky clan, that tries to balance the demands of their performance careers with family responsibilities. Their flair for drama, lavish lifestyles and unconventional relationships make for moments that are funny, touching and often absurd. Click here to read more.

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review: 'The Royal Family'
by Simon Saltzman | CurtainUp.com

   While we are appreciative of the visit to Broadway of a current member of the United Kingdom's royal family, specifically Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, as well as by the presence of the more historic King Henry VIII and entourage in Wolf Hall, we can also see how America once saw fit to anoint the Barrymore family of actors as its own Royal Family. This is the title given to them somewhat audaciously and/or sarcastically by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber in 1927 in their raucous comedy which has enjoyed numerous revivals over the years. It is the opening play of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey season, and you should go have yourself a grand time.

   The play is said to have been summarily disowned by the Barrymores, the ennobled theater family whose lives appeared to have been satirized. With considerable tongue-in-cheek the authors, in turn, claimed they never heard of the Barrymores. Click here to read more.

STNJ’s “The Royal Family” Season Opener
by Sherri Rase | Q on Stage.com

   Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ) opens the 2015 season with a fever dream for all theater people from onstage to audience–George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s “The Royal Family.” Two members of the Algonquin Round Table writing about the thinly disguised Barrymore dynasty, while of course hotly denying the Cavendish family bore any resemblance to the Barrymores, made a huge splash with this romp when it first debuted, with many cultural references from the late 1920s. Remember, it was called the Roaring 20s and no one roared louder than the Cavendish clan. Anything you can do, they practically invented! While the life of the family nominally is centered around Fanny Cavendish (Elizabeth Shepherd), the true North Star of the family is Julie (Roxanna Hope). She is the one funding the family with her indefatigable spirit and skill on the boards and she gets that from her mother and has seemingly passed it on to her daughter Gwen (Samantha Bruce). And there are, of course, leading men. Julie’s brother Tony (Benjamin Sterling) is the definition of charming, roguish ne’er-do-well, who is a less-brave version of a Hemingway character–he can drink, fence, brawl, fish, and wench with the best of them, but it’s the women he’s constantly fleeing.

   Herbert Dean (Matt Sullivan) is a true finagler, always looking for the angle, whilst playing up their family connections to the more famous members of the clan. He and his wife Kitty (Allison Mackie) make a career out of the long con. They were working a room before “networking” was invented and they can leverage the smallest opportunity. Equally adept at persuasion is the family’s long-term manager, who’s long since become a member of the family, Oscar Wolfe (Edmond Genest). The third act is when Oscar’s true genius shows. Young Gwen’s romance with Perry Stewart (Tug Rice), who’s equally smitten with her, goes awry in the way that only young love can, and they have no idea they are mirroring a conflict that Julie had with the dashing Gil Marshall (Patrick Boll) some twenty years before. Julie and Gil had parted ways, yet their love still smolders. Yet Perry and Gil, both men of business, don’t quite get how the theater is part of the Cavendish DNA, and will they make that discovery to their peril? Click here to read more.

DURABLE ‘ROYAL FAMILY’ OPENS 53RD SEASON AT SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
by GRETCHEN VAN BENTHUYSEN | Theatercues.com

   “The Royal Family” is a 1927 play about people who think there’s nothing more noble than make a living in the theater and why they are crazy for doing so. And, to be honest, nearly a century later choosing to go on the stage is still crazy.

   The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s current production of George S. Kauffman and Edna Ferber ’s play — a not very well disguised comedy about the famous Barrymore acting clan —continues through June 21 in Madison. If you’ve never seen it, catch this excellently staged, superbly acted version opening the theater’s 53rd season.

   Bonnie Monte, celebrating her 25th season as the company’s artistic director, has a steady hand on the helm of this traditionally staged work filled with one-liners, put downs, dramatic scenes, and cut-throat competition for center stage. The Act 2 meltdown alone is worth the price of admission. Click here to read more.

‘The Royal Family’ is proof that time flies when you’re having fun
Pascack Valley Community Life

   The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey presents George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's Tony Award-winning American classic 'The Royal Family.' From left, Julie Cavendish (Roxanna Hope) and daughter Gwen Cavendish (Samantha Bruce) share a moment in the Cavendish home.

   "You Can't Take It With You," a play about an eccentric American family, is probably America's most popular comedy. The George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart classic is a constant favorite of community theaters, high schools, colleges, regional theaters and was recently, revived on Broadway with James Earl Jones as Grandpa Vanderhof. (I played Gramps my junior year in high school). It's a safe bet there are productions going on somewhere in America right now as I'm writing this review and when you're reading it.

   George S. Kaufman wrote another play, this time, with Edna Ferber, about another American family of eccentrics but they weren't called eccentrics, they were just called actors. That play, "The Royal Family," is not nearly as popular as "You Can't Take It With You," but it's certainly as funny, in fact when it first opened critics said it was a play "…that made everyone forget the Depression via gales of sophisticated laughter." Click here to read more.

Montclair Times Review: 'The Royal Family'
by Gwen Orel | The Montclair Times

   Edna Ferber wrote a lot about families, how parents and children and siblings break one another's hearts, and mend them. See her 1926 novel, "Show Boat."

   George S. Kaufman was a master of gently satirical farce.

   Julie Cavendish (Roxanna Hope) and daughter Gwen Cavendish (Samantha Bruce) share a moment in the Cavendish home. Oscar Wolfe (Edmond Genest) asks Fanny Cavendish (Elizabeth Shepherd) to read for his upcoming play, while Kitty Dean (Allison Mackie) looks on. Put Ferber and Kaufman together and you get mixture of comedy and observed love that informs "The Royal Family."

   The play is based on the Barrymores. Ethel was offended, but John approved. Click here to read more.

Theater: 'The Royal Family' at Kirby Shakespeare Theatre
by Ted Otten | Trenton Times

   The price of fame may well be the loss of privacy, and Bonnie J. Monte, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and stage director for their new season's first two productions, believes that the theatrical Barrymore family, whose line continues today with actress Drew Barrymore, may well have been the first victims of celebrity exploitation by tabloid newspapers in the 1920's as well as the vague basis for the often zany characters in "The Royal Family," a 1927 play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber which ends its run in Madison this weekend.

   This is Monte's 25th anniversary season with the company, and this play, which is about people Monte knows well, has been on her "to-do list" for years as has "The Guardsman" by Ferenc Molnar, the work chosen as the season's second attraction starting July 8 in a new translation by Monte and Molnar's grandson, Gabor Lukin. Click here to read more.

“The Royal Family” holds up as a hilarious look at celebrity
by Janine M. Torsiello | MorrisBeats.com

   If you are a fan of the classic Broadway stage and/or old Hollywood's Silver Screen days, then you will love the current production at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. “The Royal Family” takes a fun and farcical look at the kind of actors and actresses that were stage and early film royalty. But even if you aren't an old stage and screen fan, the hilarity of this show will be more than enough to make it one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud shows you've seen in a long time.

   The story, set in the late 1920s, is said to be not-so-loosely based on the infamous Barrymore acting family. The grandfather and great-aunt and great-uncle of Drew Barrymore, for you younger people. The characters of Julie Cavendish and Tony Cavendish, siblings who are on the stage and in films respectively, are said to be the incarnation of Ethel Barrymore and John Barrymore. In fact, the roles were originally offered to the famous siblings but they were not at all happy with the plot and its correlation to their own lives, so they turned it down, even causing some other actors to stay away from the production too. Click here to read more.